Georgia Senate tries to revisit education funding formula

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Special committee’s meetings include one in Savannah this week

A Georgia Senate committee will go to Savannah on Friday for a fact-finding mission about the state’s education funding formula.

The special committee already met once at the state Capitol last month and plans a third meeting in Columbus next month. The lawmakers were empaneled by Senate Resolution 650, their mission to explore whether the funding formula created in 1985 — before computers and the internet became common tools in schools — remains relevant.

The formula, known as Quality Basic Education, informed the distribution of $10.7 billion to school districts this year. It’s so complicated, though, that several prior efforts to amend it have failed.

The most recent was a yearlong effort in 2015, when then-Gov. Nathan Deal enlisted a group of experts, administrators and lawmakers to study the formula. Deal’s Education Reform Commission recommended sweeping changes — that mostly were not implemented.

Nonetheless, this new group is going to try.

“Whereas, due to the complexity of education funding mechanisms and, specifically, the mechanisms relating to the Quality Basic Education Formula, capital outlay, equalization grants, and virtual schools, it is in the best interests of the citizens of this state to periodically review and evaluate the efficacy and sufficiency of these and other funding mechanisms in meeting the needs of Georgia’s schools and students,” says the preamble to the enabling resolution.

The resulting committee spent Aug. 19 learning about the intricacies of the funding formula. They will convene again at 3 p.m. Friday at Savannah State University and then at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Columbus State University. Those who can’t make the trip can submit their testimony online at the committee’s website, which contains further details about past and pending meetings.